Santa Claus Lane
Olean, New York


In the beginning, downtown Olean merchants collectively strung fresh pine together to form garlands across North Union Street, Olean's downtown.  It didn't take them long to realize that lights were an intricate part of the decorating scheme, so they began to include strands of holiday light bulbs. 

Santa Claus Lane has come to mean more than just a parade and the night that the lights are turned on.  It has become six weeks of "celebration and song,' throughout our community.  Sophisticated animation is now included in Lincoln Park, in downtown Olean, and people from all of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania view the displays as they attend the numerous concerts and activities included in Santa Claus Lane.  

Santa Claus Lane, and particularly the Parade, has become a tradition for the greater Olean area and western New York, northwestern Pennsylvania region.  For many people, the parade has developed into a pilgrimage to the City of Olean on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Since it marks the beginning of the holiday season, Santa Claus Lane draws from as far as Rochester and Buffalo to the north, Jamestown and Erie, PA from the west, Allegany and Wyoming counties to the east and McKean and Potter counties to the south.  The greater Olean area is a well-diversified community and as such, people from all walks of life and religion attend the parade to celebrate the gifts and graces of the holiday seasons.  It is truly a night when community comes together.

~How It All Began~

1929 -- 1st Annual Santa Claus Lane directed by General Chairman Edward F. Devlin; evergreen arches spanned North Union and West State Streets lit in red, white, and green lights.

1934 -- Thanks to a resolution passed by the Olean City Council and the fundraising of the Olean Area Chamber of Commerce, permission was granted to C.W. Gabler Electric to erect 'festoons' over North Union and West State Streets.  This was at a common council meeting on November 27, with Mayor Fred Forness presiding.  The decorations stayed up until January 2 that year and every year until about 1972, when the city and its organizations did not have the funds to buy more lights and decorations.

1955 --  His trip to Olean was made possible by the Olean merchants and his arrival will be the official signal for the start of Olean's holiday shopping season.

1956 -- Several large balloons were a part of the parade.

1964 -- Santa's cottage (12x14) was constructed by Bradley's Builders and brought intact by R. J. Fitzmaurice Housemovers.

1966 -- Organizers placed a big tree on the City Building lot.  Olean's George Pancio was Santa in the Macy's Day parade.

1967 -- Big tree was brought in again this year.  Garland was yellow across the streets.

1968 -- Yellow stars were added to the garland, replacing lanterns.

1969 -- A tree sits in a permanent tree holder in the berm besides the City Building.  Santa arrives by dune buggy.

1970 -- Fourteen garlands cost $5,000.  A tree in Lincoln Park will take place of the cut live tree.

1972 -- Santa's Cottage was damaged beyond repair in the June flood.

1986 -- OBIA raised $81,137 from 137 contributors to bring back the downtown decorations including 20 custom garlands, 59 growlite trees, 44 stars, two trees, a 15 foot Santa, and more.  Olean businessman Louis Marra was credited as providing the impetus for the revival of Santa Claus Lane.

2004 -- BOCES helped decorate Lincoln Park -- Belmont, trees; Ellicottville, Santa and sleigh; and Olean, Santa's train.  Home Depot constructed Santa's cottage.

2005 -- Duggan & Duggan General Contractor assisted GOACC with the relocation of Santa's cottage to the South Street side of Lincoln Park.  BOCES created two sets of candles to 'light' up the park.

2006 -- John Caldwell of Portville created a Seasons Greeting sign that hangs on the City Building.  Also, lights were added to War Veterans Park.  The electric service in Lincoln Park was upgraded allowing for more power at the Union Street corner.

2007 -- A Santa on sleigh figurine was purchased and displayed on the wall of Bradner Stadium.  Garlands and lights were placed on the Main Street bridge.

2008 -- Electric was extended in War Veterans Park allowing for more figurines and lights to be displayed along East State Street lawn.  Snowflakes were added to the Main Street bridge and Candy Canes to the South Union Street bridge.

2009 -- Twelve wooden characters in Lincoln Park join the 50 foot Welcome to Santa Claus Lane sign; lights and garland on the pavilion in War Veterans Park; and the snowflakes on Main and South Union Street bridges as new decorations this year.

2010 -- Ten cone-shaped, 8 foot trees were created by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and Mazza Mechanical Services.

2011 -- The Santa Claus Lane committee have continued to expand lighting throughout Olean: 5 cone-shaped 5 foot trees were created by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and Mazza Mechanical Services

2014 -- Refurbished the former pole tree decorations and hung ten decorations on the stadium fence at the Bradner Stadium.  Santa Claus Lane committee purchased 8 new pole tree decorations and 8 new pole star decorations.  Also, 30 street poles were wrapped in garland rope lights.

2016 -- A fundraising campaign began in 2016 to raise funds for new decorations to go up on the new Union Street streetscape.  Sixty snowflakes, 11 skylines and a live Christmas tree were added to the street.  Thanks to the $50,000 funds that were raised by the community!

2017 -- An additional 22 snowflakes were placed along North Union Street, two pole Christmas trees were placed in the roundabouts at the mall and at Sullivan Street, all the cone trees were restrung with green garland and LED lighting, and five foot snowflakes were placed at the stadium.

Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce • 716-372-4433 • info@oleanny.com